From a meeting sponsored by the Alliance for Health Reform, “Public Plan Option: Fair Competition or Recipe for a Crowd-Out?” in Washington, D.C.:
Who remembers ‘Celebrity Deathmatch’ on MTV? It’s a cultural touchstone. I think everyone currently debating health reform here on the Hill should be familiar with it (Wikipedia says they’re reviving it). And if these fools can’t figure this out in 2009, we should hold one. Set up a ring right on the South Lawn on the White House.
That was the image I couldn’t get out of my head this afternoon. In the blue trunks was the Commonwealth Fund and the Urban Institute, supporting the inclusion of a public plan in whatever health reform bill slouches toward Washington this summer; in the red trunks was America’s Health Insurance Plans (AHIP) and the Heritage Foundation, insisting that such a plan would eventually put private insurers out of business.
The main crux of supporters’ arguments was that a public plan offers too much to ignore. Karen Davis, Ph.D., president of the Commonwealth Fund, cited data from her organization forecasting that with the enactment of a public plan, $3 trillion could be saved between 2010-2020. That’s mostly from administrative savings.
Opponents to a public plan don’t necessarily refute these figures. According to Stuart Butler, PhD, of the Heritage Foundation, the savings with a public plan are obvious. But its precisely these savings that will make the plan unstoppable, driving other payers who can’t compete out of business. Further, this prospect threatens to compromise bipartisan (and public) support for any reform at all, and derail the whole effort before it has really even begun, he said.
My blood lust aside, we’re at a stalemate. And maybe we need to just put this issue aside for a minute and fight about something else. As Karen Ignagni, of AHIP, pointed out, this incessant harping on this one issue of whether or not there SHOULD be a public plan is overshadowing discussion of the possible details contained in such a plan, and details about the rest of the health reform effort. Keep dancing, folks. We’ve got a few more rounds to go.